Block grants bring $3.77M to Franklin County

Nine Franklin County towns have been awarded nearly $3.77 million in federal Community Development Block Grants for housing rehabilitation, public service projects and work on local infrastructure, such as sidewalks.

Greenfield will receive $900,000 for Washington Street sidewalk repair, for housing rehabilitation assistance on 12 units, and for human services including homelessness prevention, food and nutrition services at Community Action’s Center for Self Reliance, and substance abuse programs and elder services.

The grant also provides funding for Community Action to help income-eligible young people gain job readiness skills through a variety of offerings.

Montague will receive $823,626 for Avenue A road improvements and the Avenue A streetscape design project as well as to provide early literacy training and housing rehabilitation assistance on four housing units in Turners Falls. The Avenue A project, which grew out of a downtown “liveability” planning process, will include improved downtown lighting using energy-efficient LED bulbs, as well as landscaping.

Shelburne, Buckland and Colrain will share $946,197 for improvements to Prospect and River streets, for housing rehabilitation assistance on six units and for the Shelburne Falls food pantry.

Ashfield, Charlemont, Heath and Hawley will receive $1,099,877 to provide housing rehabilitation assistance to 22 units and provide additional heating assistance to approximately 160 eligible households. The grant, as in Montague, was written by Franklin County Housing and Rehabilitation Assistance to provide for health and safety as well as energy-efficiency improvements for homes of income-eligible families.

Statewide, 54 cities and towns will receive a total of $27.5 million in federal CDBG money, which is distributed by Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to cities and towns with populations of less than 50,000. The maximum grant for a single community is $900,000.

Greenfield, through its CDBG funding over the past five years, has assisted 57 households to renovate their homes using $1,241,880 of the federal money and also put nearly $1.1 million into town infrastructure, according to town Community Development Director Alice Connelley.

The majority of homes in the “Deerfield Street Corridor” target area were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s to house workers in what was the Greenfield Tap & Die’s Meridian Street factory, she said. The area, with some of the towns’s older housing stock and infrastructure, has historically housed low- and moderate-income families.

Connelley said the town hopes that within the next three to five years, it will be able to use CDBG funding to upgrade most of the infrastructure in the area and bring 75 percent or more of the homes up to state building and sanitary codes.

“The City of Greenfield is grateful for the strong advocacy demonstrated by Governor Patrick and DHCD for housing rehabilitation funds through the Community Development Block Grant program,” said Greenfield Mayor William F. Martin. “These funds are critical for small towns to address social and infrastructure issues that may not be provided without such a program. For Greenfield, the CDBG team is led by ... Alice Connelley, who not only completes the application and monitors for compliance but serves as team leader on all aspects of the grant, designing various services to meet the needs of the agencies that apply.”

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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